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Japan Struggles to Contact ISIS Kidnappers as Deadline Looms

Japan was struggling to contact ISIS extremists holding two hostages before a deadline set by the group expired in less than a day.

TOKYO — Japan is struggling to contact ISIS extremists holding two hostages ahead of a deadline for their execution, an official said on Thursday. "The other side hasn't said anything at all to the government itself,” Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said. "Japan will not cave in to terrorism and will look to continue to contribute to the efforts against terrorism with the international community.”

ISIS on Tuesday released video showing 47-year-old journalist Kenji Goto and 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, a self-styled private security consultant, kneeling and handcuffed next to a black-clad militant who threatened to kill them within 72 hours if a $200-million ransom was not paid. The militant is thought to be the notorious "Jihadi John" who appears in other videos in which Western hostages were beheaded. Based on the time the video was released, the deadline will expire Friday afternoon Japan time (the early hours of Friday ET).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has not said whether it would pay the ransom, although Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama was dispatched to Jordan to seek the country's support in resolving the hostage crisis.

Also on Thursday, an expert on Islamic law and former university professor pleaded publicly with the kidnappers. "Seventy-two hours is just too short. Please wait just a bit longer, and do not try to take action immediately," Ko Nakata said at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. "If there is room to talk, I'm ready to go and negotiate."


— F. Brinley Bruton and Arata Yamamoto

The Associated Press contributed to this report.